Brothers Island Lighthouse

The Brothers is a group of small islands in Cook Strait, New Zealand, off the east coast of Arapaoa Island. It comprises two main islands and a number of smaller islets.

Frost, J: Brothers Lighthouse. Watercolour 1877

Frost, J: A birds-eye view from the sea, looking down on a small two-masted steamboat, with the Brother Islands in the foreground, their lighthouse, houses and gardens visible, and the Marlborough Sounds in the background. Watercolour 1877. Alexander Turnbull Library. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23076819

Brothers Islands, June 1958

Brothers Islands, June 1958. Photo: Evening Post. Alexander Turnbull Library. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23061476

North Brother Island in this small chain is administered by the Department of Conservation and is a sanctuary for a rare reptile species, the Brothers Island tuatara. North Brother Island is also the site of the Brothers Island Lighthouse.

Callsign: ZLPH
Location: 41°06′ South, 174°26′ East
Elevation: 79 metres above sea level
Construction: wooden tower
Tower height: 12 metres
Light configuration: modern rotating beacon
Light flash character: white light flashing on every 10 seconds
Power source: batteries charged by solar panels
Range: 19 nautical miles (35 kilometres)
Date light first lit: 1877
Automated: 1990
Demanned: 1990

The Brothers Islands in Cook Strait

The Brothers Islands in Cook Strait. Photo: Karora

View from Brothers Island lighthouse in the 1950s or 60s

View from Brothers Island lighthouse in the 1950s or 60s. Courtesy: Chris Underwood

The Brothers Island lighthouse was built in 1877, and was maintained by resident light keepers until 1990 when it was the last New Zealand lighthouse to be demanned.

Approaching the Brothers aboard the lighthouse tender Enterprise, probably in the late 1960s

Approaching the Brothers aboard the lighthouse tender Enterprise, probably in the late 1960s. Courtesy: Chris Underwood

These photos show the approach to the islands from the launch and the skillful and dangerous landing procedures required. Any equipment sent to these sites had to be 100% waterproof wrapped, as it was likely to get wet from spray and on occasion be dunked in the sea – as were techs and rigging staff sometimes.
– Chris Underwood

Unloading from Enterprise at Brothers Islands

Unloading from Enterprise at Brothers Islands. Courtesy: Chris Underwood

Unloading at Brothers Islands.

Unloading at Brothers Islands. Courtesy: Chris Underwood

Once landed the items were placed on a trolley and winched up a small steep railway to the buildings site. From there they had to be man handled to where ever they needed to go, this could be a heavy job.

Unloading at Brothers Islands

The top of the railway at Brothers Islands. Courtesy: Chris Underwood

Man-handling equipment on arrival at Brothers Island lighthouse

Man-handling equipment on arrival at Brothers Island lighthouse. Courtesy: Chris Underwood

Man-handling equipment on arrival at Brothers Island lighthouse

Man-handling equipment on arrival at Brothers Island lighthouse. Courtesy: Chris Underwood

Brothers Island was the least popular of all New Zealand’s manned lighthouses. New Zealand’s only rock station, it was notorious for sending keepers ‘rock happy’ because of the isolation. This station was deemed unsuitable for women and children because of the hazardous landing and the confined living conditions.
Keepers were completely dependent on the mainland for their supplies, including water. Even when supplies arrived unsoiled, by the third month the meals had become very limited. The letter books to the Marine Department, written by the keepers, are full of complaints about the poor quality of the supplies.
– Maritime New Zealand

Engine generator set for lighthouse

Engine generator set for Brothers Island lighthouse. Courtesy: Chris Underwood

The Brothers Island Lighthouse

The Brothers Island Lighthouse as it appears today. Photo: Maritime New Zealand

The lighthouse continues to operate using solar power, and is remote-controlled from Wellington.

Brothers Island lighthouse

The Brothers Island lighthouse as it appears today. Photo: Karora

» More information on Brothers Island Lighthouse

» Photos of the radio station at Brothers Island lighthouse

» Radio installations at New Zealand lighthouses